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Cooking with kids

Top tips

1.    Health and safety – OK it's probably occurred to most folk to tie long hair back, wash their hands regularly, be safe with knives and keep the handles of pots and pans toward the middle of the cooker – but get the kid to run through the rules also. Often putting them in charge of the hygiene will result in a mini-Napoleon bossing you around, but it's worth it to avoid food poisoning (or just grey cakes!)
2.    If your children are really young then choose something easy like a fresh fruit salad. Nothing that takes too long or is too involved. Begin with making a fruit juice cocktail and progress to smoothies, sandwiches and soups. As children get older, they can concentrate for longer and you can move onto more complicated dishes and eventually entire meals.
3.    If you have the time, you can make a whole day out of a cooking activity. Involve your children in choosing a recipe, shopping for the ingredients, making the food and (of course) eating it! Children are far more likely to eat foods that they have been involved in making. If they won't eat it – don't worry – they are also more likely to eat new foods if they are exposed to them often and see others enjoying them. So tuck in!
4.    Check you have all the ingredients and utensils before you embark on a session in the kitchen!


Basic skills

Here are some of the basic skills kids can start learning, on the assumption that you're keeping an eye on them in the kitchen. Kids do develop at different paces though, so if you don't think your kid is quite yet ready for a sharp knife yet, trust your instincts! Likewise if your budding chef is desperate to ditch the chocolate crispies and move on to complicated cakes - go for it!

Under 5s

  • Buttering a slice of bread
  • Cracking eggs by tapping the centre of the egg over the rim of a small bowl, and then using thumbs to pull the two halves apart.
  • Decorating fairy cakes or biscuits – spreading on the icing butter or just adding the sprinkles, toppings
  • Kneading and rolling out dough using a rolling pin
  • Cutting shapes out using cookie cutters
  • Using a sieve – by holding over a larger bowl and gently shaking 
  • Cutting soft fruit or vegetables, such as a banana, with a non sharp knife
  • Crushing biscuits for bases or non cook chocolate recipes – in a plastic bag with a rolling pin 
  • Rubbing in butter and flour for crumble
  • Crushing garlic in a garlic press
  • Greasing & lining cake tins
  • Mashing bananas with the back of a fork for banana bread/cake
  • Mashing potato with a potato masher 
  • Prepping fruits and veggies without a knife (i.e. snapping beans, husking corn, etc.)
  • Stirring ingredients in a bowl

5-10 year olds

  • Reading recipes
  • Writing the shopping list when told the ingredients
  • Using measuring cups for dry and liquid ingredients
  • Following steps and preparing simple recipes with little adult intervention

With supervision

  • Using a microwave, oven and stove.
  • Using a hand grater
  • Using a knife

Over 10s

  • Planning and preparing a meal for family or friends (pizza or chilli is always popular)
  • Operating a hand electric mixer/blender or food processor